Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Where Do You Get Your Ideas?"

Something is lurking about inside my mind but it hasn’t revealed itself to me yet. It’s hard to explain to people who aren’t creative exactly what this feels like. It may not be the same for everyone but all I know is there is something very slowly pinballing its way out towards my fingers so that it might be written. It’s like the sweat in your body; you know it’s there and you know how to bring it forth, but right now, at this very moment do you know where your sweat is? It’s time to hit the gym, metaphorically speaking.

When I sit down to write there are times I know about what is going to be there. If there is a piece I’m working on or reworking I have a god idea as to what to do and how to do it. This form of writing is a lot trying to put a puzzle together but I have all the pieces and I know what the picture looks like. I know how the story ends. I know the people inside of the story. I know where it takes place and I usually have a good idea who is going to die long before they do. It’s always disconcerting to have someone die when you’ve spent a long trying bringing them to life. They don’t much like it either. Some must die that there is a contrast in life rather than a continuing stream of the same people doing the same story. Life is like that too, I suppose.

So I play twenty questions with this thing in my mind trying to define it a bit. Demons is it? No. Sara? No. Graces then? No, and it petulantly turns away from me and swims into deeper and darker waters. But it is still there, I can see a flash of light against the darkness. It’s like the memory of a name when you have the face but can’t put a label on it. Right now, at this very moment, I feel like a fisherman who doesn’t know if he has something on his line or if there is something that has caught the hook fast, like an old tire or a dead tree.

This helps, you know. Writing about writing creates an attract that other writing comes to like a jealous dog wanting to be petted once there is some other dog being petted on a dog’s head. This is my way of lighting a candle to attract something to the light, whatever thing that might be. It may come to me later, much later, when the light is gone. There are times writing can only slip into your mind in the dead of night, in the stillness and agony that comes with being unable to sleep because it’s there.
I know better than to tell it to come back at a more decent time. This is a creature with an appetite and it brooks little delay in feeding even as it shies away from me. Catlike it springs towards me in the blackness than away again. It’s there, it’s hungry, but it is also has its own agenda. It can’t be simple. It’s can’t be easy. It’s cannot be clear. Feed me! Feed you what? And then the twenty questions begin again. What do you want to eat? I don’t know, you’re supposed to know, and if not, then guess, and you better be right.


Then it’s retreated again, gone down deeper, leaving me with blackness and the red glare of a clock that tells me that sleep isn’t going to get here until the next flight, maybe, if I can wait that long, and even then it will be very close to the time to get up.

Tyger sleeps in a tight ball, curled up tight and hard, next to Lucas. There was a time when I could put my hand on her as she slept and she would jump. Now, my hand finds stillness and she doesn’t awaken to see what has happened. Lilith loves the crate, a Girl Cave for a Pibble Princess, and Sam, still gimpy, is on a comforter on the north side of the bed. Lucas’ face leaks air and but his breathing is steady and deep. Tyger has placed herself so that she has full contact with both of us at all time, a fortress of flesh, and Lucas and I both allow it.
Lilith knows I’m awake. She senses me in the blackness of the room. She stands and shakes herself awake, pauses long enough to sniff the air, and then she’s silently slips out of the room. Tyger, Tyger, has no grace when she’s in a hurry and I catch a toe claw as she leaps out of bed in pursuit of my Warrior Girl. They both slip out of the doggie door and into the night. Lucas sleep through all this and I would like to, too.

Sam, of all people, struggles to his feet, nearly falls, snarls at Lucas for sleeping, and stumbles towards the door like a drunk trying to find his way out or in. I have to nudge Lucas into consciousness and he sniffs the air and discovers the dogs are all gone. Damn. One hundred plus pounds of tame wolf slips off the bed without a sound and he’s gone.

There’s more, of course, but now that I’ve gotten it started the rest will come when it is time and when there is time. The alarm clock reminds me that I have to go to work and writing will have to wait until the bills are paid. Now I know what it was and you know what it is. Mutt stuff, the defining events of my pack life, wants to come forth and it does, it has, and it will.

That is how it works. This is how I know what to write and when to write. It’s there, it comes to me, and then I write it. I have as much control over it as I do the dogs in the night or my dreams.

Take Care,
Mike

                  






Thursday, December 25, 2014

We Originated in the Belly of a Star


http://sservi.nasa.gov/articles/beware-of-images/





“Consider that you can see less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum and hear less than 1% of the acoustic spectrum. As you read this, you are traveling at 220 km/sec across the galaxy. 90% of the cells in your body carry their own microbial DNA and are not 'you.' The atoms in your body are 99.9999999999999999% empty space and none of them are the ones you were born with, but they all originated in the belly of a star. Human beings have 46 chromosomes, 2 less than the common potato. The existence of the rainbow depends on the conical photoreceptors in your eyes; to animals without cones, the rainbow does not exist. So you don’t just look at a rainbow, you create it. This is pretty amazing, especially considering that all the beautiful colors you see represent less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum.”

- Sergio Toporek










How Dogs Changed Hickory Head


It’s coming up on my fourteenth anniversary of living here. I move out to Hickory Head back in 2001 and I fenced in what would become my back yard in July of 2001 once Sam arrived. Bert and Sam lived happily in the back yard until May of 2007, I believe, when my neighbor told me he was going to put up a fence at the back of my property so he could keep cows back there. Gee, with just two more very long pieces of fences and a couple of dozen fence posts, or more, I could have a really big back yard for the dogs. So after a lot of effort, more fence posts than I thought, some wiring for the electrical fence, and some blisters gained from using post hole diggers I managed to fence in an acre or so. The dogs had never been as happy!

There was a bare spot where it had flooded once but that was where I had a firepit. I didn’t expect for there to be a lot of vegetation around that part of the world, but the Southwest corner of the property was a vast tangle of wild grape vines and briars. Moreover, while there were many sizable hardwoods there weren’t any smaller Oak trees or anything like that. There was a large population of white-tailed deer that frequented the area and made their way down to the pond to drink. I wondered if the fence would keep them using my property as a path, and it did, but not because of the fence. Bert and Sam began chasing much larger prey than they ever had before. They nearly caught a doe once and Bert got kicked right as she flew over the fence. There was a very nasty gash over his right eye that bled like a waterfall, but he had a grin on his face.

Strange things began to happen but they didn’t happen overnight. The dogs began to patrol the back acre on a daily basis which meant a path was cut around the insider perimeter of the fence. The deer vanished. I began walking around the property more and I also began keeping the path cleaner. After a couple of years I noticed there were more and more Oak saplings popping up and I realized the deer had likely been eating them before. But the saplings were all being weighed down by those green arrow leafed vines, the ones with thorns so the sapling were stunted and being killed. A program was started to cut the vines off the saplings and by the tenth anniversary of us being here there were some very strong and straight young Oaks. Those who were already growing grew taller and faster once the vines were gone. Songbirds have built nests in these trees, including the tree that was near the firepit, yes, the tree that was knee deep in water earlier this year. That tree wasn’t around in 2004 when the last flood hit.

When I started getting rid of the vines and the thick underbrush the dogs started wandering around the property even more. They’ve created paths that I didn’t led them to create. Lucas, ever the wandering spirit, began his own trail away from the perimeter trails and Lilith has followed in his pawsteps.

What I am seeing now is the young trees are beginning to get high enough off the ground so the vines cannot reach their lower limbs in one season. I really hurt them a couple of years ago and this year there have hardly been any young trees with vines in their crowns. The dogs have begun to hunt in the areas that are more clear, the prey animals they seek are being crowded into a smaller area, so even more vegetation is being pushed down around the young trees. Dogs are helping me civilize the back acre so the Oaks can move in and prosper.


My theory on the dogs helping improve the ecosystem of the backyard was already forming and already taking shape when I learned that the wolves that had been reintroduced to Yellowstone were impacting that area in a very positive way for much of the same reasons. Of course, I was doing work that helped a lot also but at the same time, the dogs were keeping the deer from eating the Oaks while I wasn’t around.

The two places where Oaks have really taken hold is at the back of the old back yard where the old fenceline stood. There are so many there, all of them well over three meters tall, that I may have to thin some of them. The other area is the new run of fence facing the west side of the property. This is the run of fence nearest to where the dog’s water tub stays. My theory is that deer avoid any area where dogs frequent just like the deer in Yellowstone avoid going into places where wolves might be lingering.

There is also a stand of young Oaks in the shadows of the three biggest Oaks at the back of my property; the Dancing Oak, the Middle Child, and the Big Oak. Those are my doings, mostly, for in that area I have nearly driven the vines into extinction. On the first real cold day that I can build a fire outside I’ll drag out the weed eater and do a little more damage to them.

It’s hard to imagine the Big Oak was once an acorn. It was once a tiny two leafed sprout. It was once a meter tall and then after it got away from the vines and the deer and the people, it was a giant. That was well over two and maybe even three hundred years ago. Maybe one day one of these trees that I have helped save will tower over the landscape, be a home for winged singers and furry climbers and provide shade for the better part of an acre.

It has to start somewhere and if that place is here, I’ll be long gone before it has a chance to start well.


Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ancient Glass Bracelet Decorated with Menorahs Found in Israel


Archaeologists in Israel recently unearthed a glass bracelet decorated with a timely design. The ancient piece of jewelry is engraved with a seven-branched candelabrum, or menorah — the symbol of the Hanukkah holiday.
The bracelet was discovered in Mount Carmel National Park, which researchers think was a large settlement during the late Roman or early Byzantine period. Archaeologists have been working in the park, a declared antiquities site, before the excavation of a new water reservoir in the area.
During a routine dig last Thursday (Dec. 18), a team of excavators uncovered a box containing hundreds of glass fragments that had been thrown into a refuse pit. Among the old pieces of glass was a small fragment of decorated glass from an ancient bracelet. [The Holy Land: 7 Amazing Archaeological Finds]
"After cleaning, we were excited to discover that the bracelet, which is made of turquoise colored glass, is decorated with symbols of the seven-branched menorah — the same menorah which according to tradition was kept alight in the temple for eight days by means of a single cruse of oil," Limor Talmi and Dan Krizner, excavation directors for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement.
The bracelet was likely stamped with the menorah symbols when it was still hot, according to the excavation directors. The single fragment features two menorahs, each with the traditional seven branches, but with one menorah also depicting a single flame above each branch.
Glass bracelets embossed with the menorah symbol are not an unusual find in the region, according to Yael Gorin-Rosen, head of the ancient glass department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who said that such symbols have been found on jewelry in Lebanon, Syria and Israel. Other common symbols found on glass jewelry from this period (at the end of the fourth century or beginning of the fifth century A.D.) include lions and other animals, as well as images of gods, he said.
— Elizabeth Palermo, Live Science

The Dreams of a Cottonmouth in an iPhone and a Fiend in a Filing Cabinet.



So last night was pretty damn weird, to say the very least. For those of you who look for symbolic meaning in dreams, strap on, hold on, and get some popcorn. I dreamed there was this very large Cottonmouth in my yard that had some very unusual markings. This guy showed up on a four wheeler and told me he was tracking this snake and it was a very rare subspecies of Cottonmouth and he hoped no one would kill it.

There was a series of people who I knew in the dream, maybe four or five, that came over one at a time and I had to pretend I didn’t see the snake which was concealed in some bushes. Then, suddenly, I was at my friend, Elbow’s place and the snake, all six or seven feet of him, had managed to hide in my cell phone. Yes, the very large snake had hidden himself in an iPhone 4.  So he gets out of the phone and hides in Elbow’s house and we try to find him. The house does have a lot of doors and rooms but in the dream there were many more and we were having a very hard time trying to keep her pack of small dogs, which actually belong to another friend of mine, and the snake in separate places.  I finally chase him outside and he disappears into some underbrush.

I woke up and thought it weird I would have this dream and then drifted off to sleep again.


In this dream I was riding with a coworker and we were going to look at something out in the middle of nowhere. He was telling me how this very rich man had moved a property line by filing some paperwork in the courthouse and had stolen someone’s house from them. We rode by the house and it was very strange because the property line was quite visible if someone had drawn it out in black paint.

Suddenly I was in a maze made out of stone and it was a scene right out of “The Hunger Games” because there were people there trying to kill me. One of them was hiding in, of all places, a filing cabinet. I pushed it over so he could get out and someone with a hammer tried to attack me but I talked him out of it by offer him an alliance. We were going through the maze and he disappeared and I found my way out and was totally lost on a road I had never seen before.

Tyger started barking at the thunder so I work up and did not dream again.

Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dogs
















The Lesbian Tape Player




So there we were, drinking a lot of alcohol and listening to music turned up far too loud. It was the late eighties and there was this song playing I had never heard before by an artist I had never heard before. Truly, I have no idea what hit me or why it hit me, but suddenly it hit me, and I said, “That woman is a lesbian.” And I was referring to the singer. Everyone just stopped and stared at me because no one had even thought about that sort of thing and it was one of those moment when someone says something really off the wall and it kinda catches everyone off guard.
“You’re crazy,” a friend of mine said, “where the hell did that come from?”
“That song was written by a woman to be sung to a woman.” I replied. And everyone turned to stare at the cassette player as if there was something about the device that might lend some credence to what I was saying.
“No way Mike,” someone else said, “look at her photo on this CD, she’s smokin’ hot!”
And that was the world in the 1980’s. I really and truly knew people who thought that how a woman looked, like the outward appearance of a cassette player, could be used to discern the sexual orientation of a singer. What most people I knew didn’t know is I had a really good friend who was still closeted. She was very attractive and she was as gay as she could possibly be. How she looked threw people off. A lot of my friends hit on her but she was adept at turning guys away without giving herself away. We invented a mythical boyfriend for her, who was a married man, and that was why no one ever saw them together. Gay marriage wasn’t even being talked about back then. Her parents didn’t know and 90% of the people who knew her didn’t know. But I knew, and I knew what her world looked like. It was an ugly, ugly, world, filled with mean people who said terrible things that she never had a chance to defend against because, after all, she had to stay hidden.

The woman singing was Melissa Etheridge, and the song was “Brave and Crazy”. She would come out in 1993 with her CD “Yes, I am” and I looked up my friend who thought I was nuts.
“So?” she snorted, “You had a fifty-fifty chance of being right.”

But I didn’t. I had a much better chance of being wrong and because at that time coming out was Brave and Crazy, if things would have stayed the same I might have never known, but I did know. If you really want to know what a song written by a woman to be sung to a woman sounds like then crank up Etheridge’s “I’m the only one” and have a few beers. You can feel it. Let your inhibitions against all forms of love go for a moment and realize you can hear that woman’s soul screaming.


Most people don’t think about who writes songs and why they write songs and who they’re singing those songs to at the time. Most people make songs their own and they attach those songs to their own heart break or love. That’s why love songs work so well and that’s why there are so many of them. Everyone has the same needs and same fears. Love feels the same for everyone or love songs wouldn’t work at all.

Let that last sentence sink in for a bit. Does it matter whose heart is breaking? Does it matter who just got burned again by the same person? Does it matter at all who that song was written for or to who? You never thought about it, did you? Right now, at this very moment, you realize that love is the same and you never acknowledged it before. Take a moment. All your life you’ve sung along with people whose love you never knew and never cared about because it became your love, your heart, your tears, your joy, and all the while, did you ever wonder?

My lesbian friend grew up, got married to a very nice woman, came out openly and they had kids through artificial insemination. Unfortunately, my friend wasn’t the partner who carried the children. When she and her wife split up she discovered that legally speaking, she was no longer a parent. She has zero rights to kids she has nurtured and cared for all their lives.


You have to admit to yourself that the music in your soul and the love it carries moves you, the same way it moves everyone else who loves music. Extent that love to the caring of children and suddenly, like me, you find yourself looking for justice, with a song in your heart.

Take Care,

Mike

It's Okay.




I have the day off but I forgot to tell the alarm clock. I also forgot to mention it to four dogs who are accustomed to being let out when the alarm goes off. Lilith doesn’t grumble when her sister, Tyger crawls over her to get out of the crate; Lilith hears rain and she rather hold it than go out. But we’re going out before it gets serious out there and today it is supposed to get very serious. Even Sam moves a little more quickly today. Get out, get it over with and get back in. Tyger disappears into the black, Lucas close behind her but Lilith hangs back. Sam stumbles behind the younger dogs making not even the slightest effort to keep up.

I have no idea how long can Sam can keep it up but I’ll give up after he does.


Breakfast is something that is an orderly affair. Even Tyger knows there is a bowl for everyone and everyone has their own bowl. No stealing. No crowding. No fussing. Yay! But I am in no mood to get up. After everyone is fed I go back to bed and watch the lightning in the darkness coming. Sam hates thunder. He’s on the bed even before Lucas. Lucas arrives and Tyger springs up next to him, on top of Lucas’ back, and he’s forced to give ground. Tyger wants to be beside me. She wants to cuddle. Lilith takes the crate as her own, happily.


Tyger nibbles. Instead of kisses she nibbles. I push face away from mine and tell her no. She creeps in and nibbles. I push her away and tell her no. After the ten or twentieth time, Tyger pushes her face next to mine and licks my nose. No nibbles. I pet her ears and Tyger settles down. I feel the weight of her head on my chest and I can hear her breathe in the darkness. Tyger’s tiny body melts into mine and I listen for the sound of the other dogs; Lucas’ heavy wheeze through his half face, Sam’s old snore, and over in the crate, the steady breath of Lilith eases through the morning.


BOOM!

The room lights up a fraction of a second before the thunder hits. Lilith lands on the bed a half second later. Sam stirs and tries to move closer to me. Lucas doesn’t so much as twitch. Tyger come up on her front legs and I can feel her heartbeat thumping in her chest. Her entire body is tense and ready for action. I put my hand on her head and feel her ears plastered back on her head.

“It’s okay”

I speak softly to her, “It’s okay” and these words are words she will hear again and again for she doesn’t know yet it is. Where was this little dog before she landed in the shelter? Where did she stay in storms like this in the year or so she was off everyone’s radar? How did she deal with such noise and light? Now she stands on her front legs and there is noise and bright light and someone tells her, “It’s okay.”

Slowly, Tyger lies down again, heart still pounding, and she turns and licks my face, no nibbling. Is it? Is it okay?


“It’s okay”


Tyger’s body melds into mind again the rhythm of her heart now inaudible. Her lungs fill and release, there is more thunder, more lightning, but now there is something different. Tyger smells the scent of my body, Lucas nearby, Lilith at the foot of the bed, and Sam on the other side. The heavy odor of coffee fills the house as well as that of breakfast. Each breath she takes fills her world with these smells. This is home. This is family. This is where I went to sleep last night and this is where I woke up this morning. There is a place for me here and I am loved. I am loved here. I am loved. It is okay. The rain pounds the roof and Tyger knows that she is inside and the rain is outside and she will be warm and she will be dry. Tyger’s breath tells me she has slipped back into sleep.

It’s okay.

Take Care,

Mike

For the rest of us












Monday, December 22, 2014

December the Twenty-fifth.





I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed Christmas. I know it’s been decades since I looked forward to it. I know that the last ten years or so I’ve dreaded it beginning in July or so. To me, Christmas is a very sad and very depressing time of the year. I rather it come once every five years or so and that would be quite enough. If I ever get up enough money I’m going to take a vacation far, far, away from Christmas when it rolls around every year. Maybe Israel would do. There has to be a safe haven for those of us who simply hate Christmas.

Back when I worked as a loan agent for one of those small time title loan operations Christmas was their biggest event. It didn’t matter how deeply people were driven into debt as long as they got the latest and greatest new toy for their kids. It might mean working two shifts and paying fifty percent interest on a loan, but that’s what parenting is all about; buying stuff for one day a year that will last a week and paying for it for six months. I saw people with looks of despair in their eyes because they knew, really knew, they were cutting their own throats to buy presents but Christmas comes but once a year, right?

Divorced parents were the very worst of customers and the very best of customers. We made more money off of a divorce than the lawyers did. There was no way in hell one parent or the other was going to let the opposition out spend them on the kids this year. We loaned money to both sides of the conflict and made double what we had out there. Sure, there was a limit on the percentage we could charge them in interest but there was no limit on the number of fees we tacked onto each loan. The late charges are what really made the most money. January was a time of starvation and deprivation except in our business where we knew which people were going to default before they did.

By February I was knocking on door and reminding people that they had put their car up as collateral and that we were going to take it away if they didn’t pay. In some yards there were wrecked heaps of cheap plastic toys forgotten once the new wore off and the kids were bored with trying to entertain themselves while both parents were working two jobs.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Every year since I can remember Christmas has been an ordeal of one sort or another. It’s been basically some sort of weird period of time where people socialize until they are traumatized. People who work with the public dread this time of year. People who work in traffic would rather be beat with a stick than have to deal with the people out and about at Christmas. It’s frantic and frenetic. Black Friday has turned into Black Thursday with Thanksgiving sacrificed on the altar of consumerism in more and more businesses.

One Holiday to rule them all and in the darkness blind them.


Dog knows I have tried. Every year for the last few years I’ve worn a Santa Hat and I’ve tried to be lured into the Spirit of Christmas even though I knew that people who look happy aren’t always. But this year I just couldn’t. I couldn’t be a part of the rabid sense of shop till you drop and eat till you pop. It’s the 22nd of December, 2014, and I just can’t. I can’t be a part of something that has gone so horribly wrong for so terribly long.


Maybe it’s just me. It seems to be just me. Everyone else seems hell bent on having Christmas just like they always have and just like they always do. But no one seems particularly happy about the thing as a whole. There seems to be some sort of obligation to do things and go places and just keep buying. Those of us who simply do not have a lot of spare cash lying around are like those people at Halloween without any candy and without a costume.

We’re teaching kids the wrong things with Christmas. We tell them if they have to be good or they won’t get rewarded on Christmas but eventually they’re going to figure out there are some fairly bad kids out there making out like bandits. They’ll grow up thinking getting rewards means you’re good, even when they’re good they aren’t getting rewards like those who are bad. What does this truly teach them? Are we teaching them that poor people are bad?

Eventually, all kids discover that it’s a lie. We try to make them believe that lying is bad but because we’re all get such a kick out of watching children believe that lie, along with the behavior modification thing, it’s perfectly fine to lie. So Christmas becomes a time where being good means not being poor and it’s fun to tell lies to those too gullible not to believe in them.

Can you tell I’m really stressed out about Christmas right now?


I’ve already eaten more in the last month than is good for me in the space of twice that long. Usually, I’m pretty careful about that sort of thing but gluttony has broken out in a big way. Eating is our way of being social with one another when we’re wondering what the hell to talk about with people we only see when we’re eating to keep from having to find enough in common to have a decent conversation.


Drinking is something I’m going to avoid for a little while now. I drank some wine Saturday night, but right now I just think I’ve overdone just about everything I shouldn’t. A couple of years ago I got hammered Christmas day and had to work the next day. I felt like death warmed over. Maybe this Christmas I’ll find an open space and run a few miles.

It’s time to do something different.

Take Care,

Mike

Joe Cocker - You Can Leave Your Hat On (HD)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Good Will Always Outlast Evil



This photo was taken in 1932, before the Nazis came to power. But, as it happened, the house of rabbi Akiva Posner, who led the community of Kiel in Germany, was right across the street from the local headquarters of the Nazi Party. His wife Rachel took this historic photo and wrote on its back that ‘their flag wishes to see the death of Judah, but Judah will always survive, and our light will outlast their flag.’” The Posner family arrived in Palestine in 1934. They brought the Hanukkiah with them too. Don’t be afraid. Chag Sameach!

Tyger Linn Has Settled In.

Do you know how hard it is to catch this animal being still enough to photograph?



Tyger Linn has decided that perhaps, after all, she might be, just maybe, here to stay. She’s currently experimenting with places to sleep during the day which have included but are not limited to, the sofa, no get down, the comforter in the spare bathroom, the kitchen floor, get out of the kitchen, the bed, Lucas you know better than to lead her up there, the comforter on the floor near the bedroom window, which belongs to Lilith but she’s taken over the crate once again. Tyger walks by the crate and looks at it as if to say, “Alas! Poor Yorick, I knew him Horatio!”

But so far, Tyger has yet to push Lilith’s buttons at all. Lilith hasn’t snapped or growled or so much as thrown an Elvis sneer towards Tyger but there seems to be some sort of understanding. Tyger is not the Pibble Princess that Lilith is. She’s go out in a driving rain and not look back at the door. Lilith waits for me to get an umbrella. The two are similar in the fact that they both like to be alone and will find an out of the way place to nap. When these two begin to bond it is going to be very interesting.

Sam still hates Tyger but he’s not growling as much. I’m teaching Tyger how to ignore Sam and she is learning to just turn away from him. She’ll curly lip at him but so far she seems to have decided not to engage him again. She’ll move from one side of the bed to the other to get away from Sam and mobility, as well as damn near everything else I can think of, is on her side. Today I watched her avoid him while he and Lucas were drinking out of the water tub outside. She waited for Sam to finish before she started drinking. I can tell by the hair on her back she doesn’t like being close to him but so far she’s doing her part of keep out of his path. Lilith seems to accept this as part of the show. When Tyger and Sam get too close to one another Lilith sits down and watches. She’s giving them both some needed room.

Tyger is a “small” dog for one of mine for she’s only pulling about twenty-five pounds, maybe thirty, at most. Because she was a stray I suspect that she never was really fed well. The word “stunted” was used to describe how Lucas would turn out as far as size goes and that is a word that I still toss back at my vet when we talk. But I really do not think Tyger will get to be more than fifty pounds at the most, which again, is small for my pack.

At the same time, Tyger has a very large heart. She is fearless in the same manner that Lucas was when he arrived. She explores without hesitation and this is a dog that plays hard as well. When she took Sam down she wasn’t merely trying to get some space between herself and a much larger dog she was doing her best to pin him and she did. True enough, Sam is ancient, but my little brindle girl dog learned to survive in conditions that kill, maim, and scar, among the canines mistreated so terribly by humans. Tyger has no manners whatsoever.

The worst habit she has is biting my face when she greets me. Yes, indeed, these are just love bites, tiny nips of affection, but I am no Loki Mutt. So now we are learning to not to nibble on Mike’s face. We are also learning not to swat at Mike’s face with a paw while playing. The little girl has exceptional aim, unfortunately.


There are very bright spots and very good moments. Tyger has learned that there is only one bowl in the house that she is to eat from and that bowl is hers. She has learned that she has to be in her crate to be fed and now she runs and lies down to wait for me to feed her. She doesn’t rush the bowl or try to knock it out of my hand, but she waits until I put it down for her. Tyger is learning that she cannot always be right next to me, where Lucas likes to be, and sometimes Lilith. She’ll listen to me when I tell her to get down, or to move, or when I ask her to lie down. For a dog that came straight out of Death Row with nothing but the skin on her back, I think Tyger is doing quite well.

So today is stay at home and bond day. We will all get on the bed while I write and snuggle. We will walk in the woods. We will hang out and be a pack and a family, just like we ought to be. Tyger is learning manners and she is learning to respect her elders. Tyger is beginning to realize this is home, not only for those that have been here but for those who have just arrived.

It just occurred to me that Sam is the first dog that I have owned that will have lived out his entire life here at Hickory Head. Tyger Linn may well follow in his footsteps but that is a future that we have yet to see.

Take Care,

Mike

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Brindle and The Grey




We were doing just fine, really, until Wednesday. I was supposed to take Tyger to the vet to get her UTD on her shots and the very nice young lady behind the counter suggested that we needed to get Tyger spayed. I shouldn’t have done it, but the young lady was very nice and really, why not?

Well, actually, there were a couple of really good reasons not to have it done that day. The first is that Tyger is just getting used to having a home. I do not think she has ever had a real home. I don’t think she has had anyone to ever care for her. She certainly hasn’t had any training. She was pulled out of the shelter at the very last moment because I took her. Other than that and she’s be dead right now. She’s a very young and very untrained pit who had some health problems. I should have waited and let Tyger settle in for another week or so, or even longer.

Damage done.


In this pack there is an understanding that Sam is Sam and that means ignoring his death threats. Sam isn’t capable of hurting anyone or anything. Lilith and Lucas both have been down this road with Sam and they both ignore him for the most part. Sam attacked Tyger and it got ugly. True enough, Tyger was defending herself but she’s a strong willed and still very much a stray. It’s Lord of the Flies time, as Sawyer once said on LOST. On the upside Sam wasn’t injured badly but it started a very distinct uneasiness between the two. That was just starting to ease up a bit when Tyger went under the knife. Tyger was also learning to keep her face away from the business end of Lilith, Warrior Girl. The overnight vet stay resulted in a very stoned Tyger returning to the pack to be mobbed by three very curious dogs and me trying to keep everyone apart who needed to stay apart.

It seemed that Tyger had started leaning into the idea that she had a family then it was snatched away from her. She spent a day in the same place, the vet’s, that she had gone when she left the shelter and dog only knows what she went through before she got there. All we really know is that someone reported a stray and she was picked up. Tyger has had at least one litter of puppies and who knows what happened to them? She’s less than a year old, at best. Homeless, lost, alone, attacked by her kennelmate in the shelter and then taken away to a strange place with an old and grouchy dog, which was her best bet.

Can you see where Tyger might have some issues here?

So back to the basics of keeping everyone apart from Tyger and keeping Tyger apart from everyone else. But Lucas and Tyger get along very well, so I let them have some time together outside today. I didn’t let them play because Tyger has stiches from the spay. She and Lucas did very well so I let Lilith out and Lilith and Tyger hunted a tree limb together. Okay. I kept them all away from Sam.

Back inside I put Tyger into the crate which shocked Lilith. I’ve never seen a dog like being in a crate as much as Lilith does. But that’s Tyger’s space and she was happy to sleep in her own bed. Tyger needs to know there is some sort of location where she is safe and secure. I put the other dogs out of the room so Tyger and I could talk alone for a while. She allowed me to check her wounds, and she relaxed when I held her. Yesterday spooked my little Brindle Girl. She checked out of her home for a day and now that she is back she’s a little wary that it might happen again. Tyger, as we speak, is sleeping near my feet on the bed. Lucas is on one side of her and Sam is on the other side. That took some doing.

I locked Sam out of the bedroom, let Lilith get into the crate, and let Tyger choose a spot on the bed before Lucas got up. Once everyone got settled in I let Sam in. Sam was forced to get up on the bed alone and he had to find a spot near Tyger, who wasn’t very happy that Sam was there, but I was sitting up with my arm around her. Sam didn’t even growl at her. He got on the bed, refused to look at either of us, and went to sleep. Tyger and I sat for a while and I let her decided if she wanted to stay on the bed or get off. Tyger curled up and went back to sleep.

Now I lay be down to write, in my bed, three dogs sleep tight, and if they dream before they wake, I know Sam’s legs with make things shake. And Lucas’s snore will rattle doors, and the dreams of the Tyger, will be to be lost no more, Lillith hopes for a box of her own, and I am glad, my entire pack is home.
The photo above shows Sam and TYger touching without incident.


Take Care,
Mike

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Dream of The Ancient Woman

One of the great satisfactions of getting older but at the same time being in decent physical shape is watching those people who are getting older and who are not in decent physical shape decline in a manner in which they will never recover. I do not mean this in a general term and this isn’t meant to be taken as some sort of smugness about my own health or a sense of meanness about the plight of others, yet there were those in my life, when I was very young, who were very cruel to me, and I have watched most of them die slow, and die not as men, but as squirming masses of desperation. There comes a point in time when it is far too late to recover from a lifetime of bad habits and when that point comes all anyone can do is grasp for straws and mouth homilies about miracles and good days.

There was the Oldest of The Old Gods, a man who never thought twice about the harshness of his words or the humiliation he might bestow upon others and he died poorly. At the end he wanted to go outside and smoke but his wife simply refused to allow it. He quit smoking not because he wanted to or because it might slow his decline, but because someone else made that decision for him. He had reached a point far past having any sort of political power anymore. Suddenly, it seemed, all the men who once worked under him were all gone and none could be called to do his bidding. Only his wife remained, she herself in better health than he, and there was a sea change in the way she treated the minions of the Oldest of The Old Gods.

As he slipped in and out of consciousness she chased away those few who remained. She bid them to leave and to never return. She told them that for the better part of sixty years they had taken him away from her, had drank and smoked and stayed out for days with him, and now, at the end, she remained with the wreck. Go! Get out of my house and do not come back. She invited none of them to the funeral and those who went found themselves estranged from the family. To this day I do not think she has ever spoken to any of them again.


It’s odd that these thoughts come into my mind after the dream I had last night. It was a very strange dream, even for me, for the people in the dream were familiar yet they were also very, very different. I was heading to a prison, not as a prisoner, but to visit someone. I was on a bicycle and no one seemed to notice me at all. The guards were all indifferent to me and traffic, although it was heavy, never came close to me. I walked down the halls and realized that everyone in the prison was old. Not just older but aged. Elderly in a way that suggests frailty and infirmity. Little care indeed would be needed to keep these inmates from escaping because it is likely none of them had the mental or physical wherewithal to flee had they so much desired to do so.

Then there she was. It was a terrible thing to see, really. She wasn’t just old, no, oh no, she was ancient beyond all reckoning. This was someone who had lived for more than a century and had lived most of that behind bars. Bonnie Parker had survived the ambush somehow, and they had secretly locked her away forever. There was almost no sign that she was who she had once been at all; there was no evidence that this was the woman I knew. Only her manner in trying to get me to help her suggested that she was the same. She had, over the years, built a primitive gun out of various pieces of metal. She had managed to talk the guards out of several bullets. And now she, at one hundred years old, plus, and I, were going to blast our way out of a prison that held no one under eighty years of age.

I put her on my handlebars and we pedaled out of the front gate without anyone saying a word to us. It was as odd scene for at times it was getting dark and then there were time where it was morning and then it was the full noon of day. We wound up on a balcony and used a garden hose to slip down into the lawn below where a woman tended her plants. She asked us not to trample her charges but seemed unconcerned that there was a one hundred and four year old convict making good her escape through the petunias.

At the same time, there was an odd element about the dream. She delighted in the speed of the bicycle even though it frightened her. We went down a hill at great speed and a dog chased after us. She closed her eyes and I could tell she was scared to the point that I should have done something to stop it all but we had to get past the pursuing mutt and after a while, he gave up the chase after all.

We stopped at a steel bridge were there were sea birds flying underneath it and small boats gliding on the water slowly. We stopped at a point and she asked me if I ever thought about living past one hundred and I told her I did not. She said that days go by like years and years go by like days and then one day, after it is all said and done, it has all been said and it has all been done. She asked me to leave and I did. When I looked back there was no on there at all.

At that point, I was suddenly in a room, and a friend of mine burst through the door, and I could tell she was furious with me.


Take Care,
Mike



Friday, December 5, 2014

Holly, the Brindle, My Next Foster





She wasn’t a stray, she was always too well fed to be a stray, but she was one of those dogs who wander, and I never did know who she belonged to at all. Back then, there were fewer cars, less traffic and people walked more and children all rode bicycles. It was safer for a bridle Pitbull girl dog to walk to school with kids or visit them at lunch. She was one of those odd dogs who learned to bare her teeth not in a snarl but a grin. I never knew her real name but because she was striped, blacker than orange, I called her Tiger.

I remember Tiger appearing one day when we were riding our bikes to school, and it’s odd that so few kids ride anymore. As I’m going to work I see cars parked at the end of driveways, driveways mind you, to drop their kids off closer to the bus. We walked, we rode out bikes, and if we ever got on a school bus all the kids would group together at one place at one time. I see school buses stopping at every other house now. My father would have rather seen me walk in the rain than ride me to school. I thought this was how it was supposed to be when I was growing up. I think that taking kids to the end of the driveway is a bit much, though.

So there was Tiger. Smiling, wagging her stump of a tail so hard her rump swung her around like a comma. I remember a kid telling me Tiger would bite me because she was showing her teeth but that body language told me that she was a kissy dog. I was right about Tiger, kissy dog she was, too, and she loved attention. She trusted strangers which is something I can’t bring myself to do today or ever for that matter.

The need for young male humans to show themselves to be hard or capable of cruelty or wantonly stupid was strong when I was growing up in South Georgia. By High School I learned not to show that I liked something or, heaven forbid, love something, because someone would try to destroy it. I had to be very careful when Tiger came around and she sensed that there were times she should approach me and times when other people might be mean to her. Girls loved her, and that kept most of the truly stupid from trying to hurt Tiger, but she was never save around humans. None of us really are.

It’s odd that even at a very young age I was being taught to hide what I liked. I was being conditioned to conceal what I loved for fear of others destroying it. It was, and it still is, a legitimate fear. Were it not there would be no animal shelters and there would be no pets destroyed by uncaring alleged human beings. At this point in my life I am two different people, at least, to the world. I am Mike Firesmith, foster dog dad and writer. To the rest of the world I am just someone with a job and who owns dogs. My constant need to subdivide my life has followed me deep into adulthood and I am not quite certain how to break the walls down.


I have no idea what happened to Tiger. I cannot remember when I noticed I hadn’t seen her in a while. She came and went at odd times so it wasn’t unusual for us not to see her for a week or so but that day came, when I realized she had been gone for a very long time. I remember a day I saw her in the parking lot and I went out to greet her. We hid between two cars and I shared my lunch with her. In a world filled with cruelty where there were no kind words spoken or heard, Tiger was the only person I could have shared a moment of humanity with at that time.

So there was a Brindle Pit, female, and her last day had arrived. Either someone took her in or she would die. Sam is so totally weird right now I cannot image trying to foster another dog, and who knows how Lilith would react to another female? But there was Tiger looking at me and a small and very scared and very young man inside of me reached out to share a moment of kindness and happiness and joy, and yes, I will take the bridle girl dog and I will save her.

I didn’t make it back into Valdosta to get her today. I was neck deep in work and six was here and gone before I could break away. But tomorrow when the vet’s office opens I’ll get to meet her, at last, and maybe she will be able to sense in me there is a debt I have to pay, in kindness and in love, for a bridle that shared my lunch with me and allowed me, for just a few moments, to be who I really wanted to be and who I really was and am.

I can make this work. I can get Lilith to, at worst, accept Holly into the pack, and get Sam to stay away from her, and Lucas will love her. I can do this. For no matter what else has happened in my life they have never failed me. They have always been there for me. They have always kept my love true.

And maybe, one day, if I save enough of them, and they keep teaching me how to love without conditions or fear or hesitation and without any regard to anything but the heart, maybe I can be just one person, one day.

Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

If I Should Die Before I Post...





I was at a party one night and we were all drinking like hell because that was what we did. And you know, every once in a while you’ll get into a decent conversation with someone and you’ll like them for not taking it over, or being too weird about their own opinion, or dismissing yours, and it’ll be sort of a nice walk through the woods and not a race and not some twenty mile march. So this guy’s name was Carl, and he was friends with the people who owned the house and he told me he had to leave because he was going fishing the next day, and then he paused and said, “Hey, come go fishing with me tomorrow!” and I nearly said yes, even though I don’t fish.

The next day rolls around and I thought to myself, you could start fishing again, and it was nice to think I had made a friend. A few hours later a woman called me to tell me Carl had been killed on the way home. He fell asleep at the wheel at slammed into a tree.

You know, I regret not telling Carl I would go fishing with him. A few hours after he and I sat down in a room full of drinking people he was dead but I still remember how he tried to explain to me how he thought the fish were going to be biting the next day. I thought his theory was unsound, unfounded, more superstitious than anything else, but the man had a way of believing without trying to drag anyone else along with him. I can’t remember a word he said, but he was just a decent sort of guy. I’m sorry he’s dead. That’s all that needs to be said.

Yesterday one of the people who rose to the occasion and donated to Lucas’ operation was nearly in a bad wreck. We’ve stayed in contact, via email, text, photos, and that sort of thing, and she sent me great coffee for my birthday. But she realized, and I do now, that the internet has some flaws as far as communication; if she had been killed how in the hell would I ever know it? We don’t any mutual friends. Would there be any real way for me to find out what happened or how it happened? We’re decided to tell someone, “Hey, if I die, email this person for me” and I hope it goes a lot more carefully than just that, but still, you know what I mean, don’t you?

My life insurance is going to cover the mutts very well and have a lot left over. I’ve made provisions for them. But what about you? There are people I have never met, may never meet, who I have never spoken to on the phone and might not ever speak to in my life, whose lives I’m grown attached to in various ways.

I’ve watched children grow up here, I’m watched parents die, I’ve seen new homes and new pets. People I know have gotten married. People I know have gotten divorced. I’ve met some people live and in person and actually became, uh, intimate, with some of the women I’ve met online. Long distance relationships very rarely work but the success rate for good old fashioned marriage is about 50-50. Besides, there is always something terrible erotic about meeting someone you have no idea who they might be! Unless they’re a fifteen hundred pounds rabid grizzly. Then it’s no fun.


But suppose you wake up tomorrow and your favorite FB person hasn’t posted a photo of her cat sleeping on her head, again. Or some guy hasn’t said a word about the snow, or someone you send a FB happy birthday to just isn’t responding. Yeah, this is the internet and you might discover that the 32 year old mother of two from Cleveland Ohio was a fourteen year old High School guy who loved to write weird things. But what if someone you care about online is actually very much dead in real life? I mean, really, really care about?

There are those people who will tell you, after that first pang of fear, when someone you’ve known for a while online, isn’t answering private messages, or texts, or even pokes, that you cannot care about those who you’ve never met. But you know this person. There hasn’t been a thank god for coffee post in two days, doesn’t that strike you as very odd? But then you notice that other people are trying to get some sort of response and then there’s this trading of messages about someone who knows this person in real life and…

All of a sudden you wonder if you should go to the funeral. “Hi! My name is Mike Firesmith and I traded online conversations with your sons for a few years and I am going to miss his sense of humor and the fact that he loved his cat.”

You know, I think a lot of people would understand that.


I would. I do.

So here’s what I’m going to be asking some of you for in the near future. I want a real time someone who know if you’re alive or dead on a regular basis. I want someone I can send an email to and they can email me back and say, “Yep she’s just totally pissed at you. That’s why she isn’t speaking to you anymore” and that makes a lot more sense than death, really, when it comes to me and women.


The difficult thing here is I’m not sure who to offer you in return. My life is so compartmentalized and I have so many names I’m pretty sure they’ll have to have more than one fire just to cremate us all. But I’ll see what I can do. I just realized there are people who have never met me who know me a lot better than some people who have known me all my life.

I’m not sure what to think about that.

Take Care,

Mike 

Monday, December 1, 2014

I know I've posted it before but I will post until it stops making me cry.




One in a Billion Sunrise Again




 Taking a left turn directly into the sun causes instant blindness and for reasons I cannot explain a flash of memory from over a decade ago. I sat at the end of my driveway in a truck I didn’t really like with a woman I had just begun to really loathe and made a right turn and a decision. I never made the decision to loathe the woman, and really, I tried to talk myself out of it but not nearly as much as she tried to talk me into it. Two people ought not feel stuck with one another, as if neither have a way out or a way forward. There has to be a sense of future, some sort of plan rather than just a day to day to day survival mode that seems like a rerun of last month and last year.

It was a thirty minute drive to the interstate and there was no point in being in a hurry. The drive would last the better part of one thousand one hundred miles. Getting to the interstate meant that there was only one thousand, seventy miles to go. As we made another right turn to get onto I-10 the rising sun caught the rear view mirror and blinded me.

The human brain enjoys being bathed in light. It needs it. The mind operates better when there is an overwhelming sense of brightness. They eyes can allow just so much before they begin to lose their ability to adjust and just so much past that point before damage begins to occur. But the sun rose above the point it was blinding me, and then it followed along side of me, and then it set directly in front of me, and as the sun set, blinding me twice in the same day, we reached the halfway point in the drive, well, a little past it, but there was still a very long way to go.

I dreaded the drive back but this time we started at three in the morning and as Dallas faded into the background of the drive the sun came up once again, as it always had and it always will and the Universe, uncaring and blind, spins and spins and spins even as we remember certain days or certain instances in time, it is much as if there are creatures who remember atoms or molecules or perhaps, the feeling of gravity pulling in each step. None of is any different, all of it is lost in the vastness of the Universe, and none of it matters at all to the spinning earth or the sun as it consumes itself ever so slowly, much as we do with each second remembered and each passing day. Dallas, the sprawling city of street lights and billboards and gas stations with their own galaxy of lights, is where Helena lived, and still lives. We orbited for a while, she fell away from me, and it was odd, to stand in the bathroom at a gas station and know that somewhere in that vast maze of lights was someone who once loved me and one hundred feet away was someone else that would one day be a part of my past. I wondered if Helena slept, or was awake, or was still in love with the man she moved to Texas with, or if she had died. I will never know any of these things.

The sun greeted me head on that day, another time of blindness much like the one created when people meet and they orbit one another. So rigid is the pull of gravitation they cannot imagine it will weaken and end as all things do and there isn’t a Universal maintenance. Bodies fall out of the heavens with regular ease flaming out and being consumed by nothing more than friction and air. There is a form of delight we human have in seeing the bright falling scar of light in the night shy but we do not realize there are no wishes and there will be nothing promised by the destruction we see. We are blind to this during the day but we never think about how many of those object fall in plain sight unseen.

If someone were to ask you to take them to get a gallon of milk, to a store that was a hundred miles away, you might very well balk at the idea but let the road be a thousand one hundred miles long and one hundred miles is a fraction of a day. Seventy, eighty, ninety miles and more on the odometer means little at all. State lines come into view, pass behind the truck, mile markers are eaten like pieces of candy and caffeine is the only One True God. I thought about it, right before the Texas state line appeared, there was a rest area and I thought about pulling in and telling her that I was going to leave there in Texas, but there was no one to come rescue her from me. Odd, isn’t it? You keep someone near to you to keep someone else from having to rescue that person from you. I wonder if she read these thoughts. I wonder if she knew the thoughts before I did.


It was New Year’s Eve and we finally made it back to the driveway and made a left turn into it. One thousand, ninety-nine point seven miles had passed underneath the truck I did not like with the woman whom I loathed. There would be no celebration or fireworks or staying up another hour or two to greet 2002. There would be no popping of corks or streamers flying. The sun would rise in another seven hours but I would not greet this one, no, not this time. That day, that night, that trip, would submerge in my mind, lost in the swirling masses inside my head and only return to me at odd times, when there was so much light, it created blindness.

Take Care,

Mike